Let us pray, peace be with us:

"The Cross that has been the cause of our good and by which our mortal humanity was set free,
O Lord, be for us a strong fortress. And by this Cross, we shall overcome the wicked one and All his devices."

(Syro-Malabar Qurbana)

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                     THE NAZRANI        “The Truth will make you free”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------            Vol.19, No. 5                       New Delhi              May 2009                         --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


As we know, the Catholic Church is a communion of individual Churches. The Indian Catholic Church, therefore, is a communion of three individual, autonomous Churches, namely, the Mar Thoma Nazrani Church ( Syro-Malabar Church), the Syro- Malankara Church and the Roman Catholic Church (Latin Church). The first two are of Apostolic Origin and are as old as Christianity itself. The Roman Catholic Church came to India with the coming of the Portuguese. The Mar Thoma Nazrani Church became completely identified with the Indian culture and traditions. Her inculturation and adaptations were natural and spontaneous. It whole-heartedly welcomed and assimilated the East Syriac liturgy without any opposition because of its affinity in faith with the Persian Churches, which also received the faith from Mar Thoma Sleeha. There was constant and persistent resistance and opposition to the imposition of the foreign-Latin elements or rather to the process of latinisation of the Mar Thoma Nazranis. The Great Split of 1653 was the result of the forceful latinisation of the Mar Thoma Nazranis….


The Mar Thoma Nazranis have a patrimony, heritage and an identity of their own. It lies in her self-perception and self-consciousness centered on its East Syriac Liturgy, mysticism and contemplation, primacy of the scripture and the stress on penance, renunciation and solitude and the constant attention on the pilgrim nature of the Church led by the Holy Spirit. For the Mar Thoma Nazranis, the Roman-Latin Church is a sister individual Church, serving as a symbol of unity and orthodoxy under the supremacy of the Pope. The Oriental theology is untouched by Hellenism and the Greek philosophy and centered on biblical images; and her spirituality is distinct from the Latin-Western one. Its Canon Law and Church administration are also different. Thus, the Mar Thoma Nazranis have a tradition, heritage and patrimony, entirely different from the Roman-Latin Church.


Vatican II emphatically and unequivocally says that each individual Church should maintain its identity and heritage. It gives practical, down-to-earth suggestion in the Decrees “Orientalium Ecclesiarum” (4 & 3) and “Christus Dominus” (23, No. 3 para 2). The Oriental Canon Law is more personal than territorial. The territoriality principle is secondary. Mar Thoma Nazranis had All India Jurisdiction till the 16th century, that is to say, till the illegitimate and invalid domination by the Roman-Latin Church in collusion with the colonial powers. Now, the whole of India is divided into Latin Dioceses and unleashed the Latin domination! Even in Kerala, the place of birth of Christianity in India, they had to be satisfied with 1/3rd of it – the boundaries being the rivers of Bharatapuzha in the north and Pamba in the south! If they wanted to work in the Missions they had to become completely latinised by joining the Latin Dioceses or Latin Religious Congregations. Is it not injustice pure and simple done to an Apostolic Church? Even after four decades of Vatican II, most of its directives have not been implemented! In many places in India, Latin clergy or latinised Syro-Malabarians administer Syro-Malabar liturgy! “One territory one Bishop” is an outdated and archaic principle irrelevant to the Indian reality. The attitude of the Latin hierarchy in many cities of India, like Bangalore, Noida, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jallandhar, Ludhiana, Chandigarh, etc. is similar to the attitude of the younger brother who refuses to return his elder brother’s children when the latter comes back from a foreign country where he had gone to work. The younger brother clings to the territoriality principle.           


Pope Pius the XI of happy memory had asked our Church in 1934 to restore her identity, taking recourse to the pre-seventeenth century liturgy. She has not at all succeeded in this. The crisis she faces today is the result of the leadership crisis. She does need an identity like the Latin Church or the Malankara Church. And this identity can be restored only by going back to her pre-seventeenth century history, liturgy and canon law. This is the need of the hour. Today, she does not have a leader. Today she does not have the many splendoured personalities like late Mar Kariyattil, and Paremakkal Thoma Kathnar. Had Mar Kariyattil been not captured and killed by the Archbishop of Goa, the whole of Mar Thoma Nazranis would have been under one single Church with one liturgy i.e. our East Syriac Liturgy, without any division. Our enemies were aware that they had been to Lisbon and Rome with the sole purpose of unification with our separated brethren. However, today, most of our shepherds lack the qualities of head and heart which make a true leader. Most of them have neither courage, nor the commitment.


Just for the information of our readers, we quote hereunder the concluding speech of  Mar Varkey Vithayathil, the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church at the Syro-Malabar Bishops Synod held from 15 to 20th of November, 1999 at Mount St. Thomas, Kakkanad:


Dear brother Archbishops and Bishops,


It is with great satisfaction that we are here today to conclude this brief but very fruitful synodal session. As I have said in my inaugural address this session had a special significance as it was held against the back-drop of the Mission assembly and as the last session in this century. Now with the agreement that we have reached concerning the uniform mode of celebration of the Holy Qurbana which is the sum and summit of our Christian life this session has acquired an all-time importance because we can walk together, in synod, to the year of the Great Jubilee. My gaze turn to the Almighty in gratitude. At the same time I thank and congratulate all of you my brother bishops and archbishops for making this reconciliation possible. We have averted that way a great danger that was looming in the horizon. That danger was nothing but the disintegration of our Church which our forefathers loved and fostered with so many hardships. They will be looking down from heaven with a sign of relief.


I have no doubt that our people will accept this unanimous decision of our whole-heartedly because our lack of unity in this matter has been such a scandal for Christians and non-Christians alike for more than three decades. We have wasted a lot of energy, time and money; but above all, we have wasted a lot of opportunities for giving our faithful a better example of Christian life. Let us begin a new era. It is my hope and wish that the decision can be implemented by 3rd July, 2000 with your co-operation and collaboration.


Of course, this is only a beginning. There are miles to go if we are to restore fully the lost communion among ourselves. It is an arduous and difficult journey. But what awaits us at the end of that journey definitely makes it worth undertaking. First of all we have to convince ourselves that the solution we have found out is the best possible solution in the present circumstances. Only when we are convinced we will be able to convince others of the necessity of such a solution. There should be no negative remarks from anyone of us against any one who are or rather were not of our view.  Each of us should be extremely careful not to create any impression that this was imposed upon us. It is equally important for every one of us not to write or speak anything to anywhere or to anyone, including our superiors, with disagreeing notes.


Thirdly, we have to make every effort to create an awareness and sense of necessity among our clergy, religious and laity of the present solution. I would insist that the clergy must be told in no uncertain terms that it is extremely important to go along with our decision. They are the ones in direct contact with the faithful.


Fourthly, it is necessary to give a balanced catechesis to our faithful. Care must be taken not to go too extremes. Sensibilities of all are to be taken into account. It is often the insensibility about the problems of the other that vitiates the situation.


Having said all this I do not mean that everything concerning the Holy Qurbana is decided once and for all. There is still room for improvements. As it was pointed out several times in the synod those topics for improvement can be entrusted to the Liturgical research Centre. We have to look into the linguistic, theological, pastoral, cultural aspects, etc. of the Sacred Liturgy. There will be always new developments in the sacred Liturgy. We should not be reluctant to study them and to adopt them if found useful for our faithful because liturgy is not something static but dynamic and growing constantly.


Apart from the Holy Qurbana several other topics were on our agenda and we have covered all except a few. I am hopeful that the remaining ones can be taken up in the next session scheduled for the middle of 2000.


Once more I thank all of you for your active participation in the discussions and positive contributions. May Mary the Mother of Christ help us in our efforts to guide our people who are entrusted to our care with genuine Christian leadership. May St Thomas our Father in faith intercede for us with the Lord. With these words I formally conclude the VIIth Synod (1999).


Mount St Thomas                                                         + Varkey Vithayathil C.Ss.R

   20-11-1999                                                                    Apostolic Administrator 


Since then 10 years have elapsed but we are back to square one. From the above letter we can see the true colours of our ‘Shepherds’. No doubt, they lack “genuine Christian leadership”. But still they want to cling to the position they are holding. Today, where is the uniform mode of celebration of Holy Qurbana that our Bishops had agreed? Their lack of unity in this matter has really been a scandal for Christians and non-Christians alike. They have “wasted a lot of energy, time and money”.  In the name of the Synod, they are holidaying at the expense of the faithful!  Today our Shepherds are interested only in politics. One of the ring leaders of the movement of liberation theology has been appointed even spokesperson of the Syro-Malabar Church !  His interview with the Major Archbishop is yet another scandal for the Nazranis and the Latins alike.